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Article

Plasticity of Root Traits under Competition for a Nutrient-Rich Patch Depends on Tree Species and Possesses a Large Congruency between Intra- and Interspecific Situations

1
Department Forest and Soil Sciences, Institute of Forest Ecology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, 1190 Vienna, Austria
2
College of Agriculture, Forestry Department, Salahaddin University Erbil, Erbil 44001, Kurdistan Region, Iraq
3
Forest Soils and Biogeochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(5), 528; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11050528
Received: 1 April 2020 / Revised: 5 May 2020 / Accepted: 7 May 2020 / Published: 9 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation of Root System to Environment)
Belowground competition is an important structuring force in terrestrial plant communities. Uncertainties remain about the plasticity of functional root traits under competition, especially comparing interspecific vs. intraspecific situations. This study addresses the plasticity of fine root traits of competing Acer pseudoplatanus L. and Fagus sylvatica L. seedlings in nutrient-rich soil patches. Seedlings’ roots were grown in a competition chamber experiment in which root growth (biomass), morphological and architectural fine roots traits, and potential activities of four extracellular enzymes were analyzed. Competition chambers with one, two conspecific, or two allospecific roots were established, and fertilized to create a nutrient ‘hotspot’. Interspecific competition significantly reduced fine root growth in Fagus only, while intraspecific competition had no significant effect on the fine root biomass of either species. Competition reduced root nitrogen concentration and specific root respiration of both species. Potential extracellular enzymatic activities of β-glucosidase (BG) and N-acetyl-glucosaminidase (NAG) were lower in ectomycorrhizal Fagus roots competing with Acer. Acer fine roots had greater diameter and tip densities under intraspecific competition. Fagus root traits were generally more plastic than those of Acer, but no differences in trait plasticity were found between competitive situations. Compared to Acer, Fagus roots possessed a greater plasticity of all studied traits but coarse root biomass. However, this high plasticity did not result in directed trait value changes under interspecific competition, but Fagus roots grew less and realized lower N concentrations in comparison to competing Acer roots. The plasticity of root traits of both species was thus found to be highly species- but not competitor-specific. By showing that both con- and allospecific roots had similar effects on target root growth and most trait values, our data sheds light on the paradigm that the intensity of intraspecific competition is greater than those of interspecific competition belowground. View Full-Text
Keywords: Acer pseudoplatanus; competition below ground; extracellular enzymes; Fagus sylvatica; intraspecific and interspecific competition; toot economic spectrum; toot respiration; tree root traits Acer pseudoplatanus; competition below ground; extracellular enzymes; Fagus sylvatica; intraspecific and interspecific competition; toot economic spectrum; toot respiration; tree root traits
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MDPI and ACS Style

Lak, Z.A.; Sandén, H.; Mayer, M.; Godbold, D.L.; Rewald, B. Plasticity of Root Traits under Competition for a Nutrient-Rich Patch Depends on Tree Species and Possesses a Large Congruency between Intra- and Interspecific Situations. Forests 2020, 11, 528. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11050528

AMA Style

Lak ZA, Sandén H, Mayer M, Godbold DL, Rewald B. Plasticity of Root Traits under Competition for a Nutrient-Rich Patch Depends on Tree Species and Possesses a Large Congruency between Intra- and Interspecific Situations. Forests. 2020; 11(5):528. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11050528

Chicago/Turabian Style

Lak, Zana A., Hans Sandén, Mathias Mayer, Douglas L. Godbold, and Boris Rewald. 2020. "Plasticity of Root Traits under Competition for a Nutrient-Rich Patch Depends on Tree Species and Possesses a Large Congruency between Intra- and Interspecific Situations" Forests 11, no. 5: 528. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11050528

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